It is a well-known fact that many NASCAR fans are also lovers of the 2nd Amendment and their right to self-defense. Many also happen to be members of the National Rifle Association (NRA). After more than a dozen companies cut ties with the NRA in the wake of the Valentine’s Day shooting at a school in Parkland, Florida many gun control advocates are demanding NASCAR follow suit at the upcoming race in Bristol, Tennessee. The deadly school shooting left 17 students and faculty members of Margory Stoneman High School dead and many others wounded.
Bristol is home to one of NASCAR’s marquee races and the NRA is a co-sponsor of its annual “night race.” Naturally, Bristol Motor Speedway told the leftist gun control crowd that would be a no-can-do and held firm to its commitment to continue the partnership with the NRA. Naturally, the left is angry. Currently, the parent company of Bristol Motor Speedway, Speedway Motorsports, Inc., offers a discount program to purchase race tickets for NRA members. They plan to continue this discount program through the 2018 race year.
The 0.533-mile track is located just a few miles south of the Virginia state line and hosts two NASCAR races per year, as well as several other events that provide revenue and jobs to the local area, as well as entertainment. Later this spring, Bristol Motor Speedway also plans to host its annual daytime cup race known as the Food City 500. They have announced they plan to continue to partner with Bass Pro Shops and the NRA for its August 18 race under the lights with the August race being dubbed the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race since the origination of the partnership in 2016.
Companies like Best Western, Delta Airlines, Hertz, and United Airlines have recently ended their discount programs with the NRA. Dick’s Sporting Goods and Walmart also announced this week their stores would no longer sell firearms to anyone under the age of 21. However, some states are striking back as Georgia did with Delta Airlines by revoking some $40 million in tax credits from the state.
Speedway Management said in a statement to USA Today – “This has been a good long-standing partnership and we plan to continue.” This should come as no surprise as current NRA First Vice President Richard Childress is also a NASCAR team owner and former driver.
Both the NRA and Bass Pro Shops have sponsored the night race at Bristol since 2016. Previous sponsors of the event include companies such as – Irwin Tools, Sharpie and Goody’s Headache Powder. Childress has announced his own support of NASCAR stating the organization made the “right decision” to let the NRA co-sponsor the race making note that “many fans are supporters” of the organization.
Childress said in a statement of his own – “Racing fans and NRA members treasure their freedom and outdoor heritage, and the Night Race is where we go to celebrate that love of freedom, love of the shooting sports, and love of the great outdoors.”
Yahoo Sports reports of the controversial partnership –
“The NRA previously sponsored a Cup race before it became a sponsor at Bristol. And its sponsorship then was controversial.
In 2013, two weeks after the sport rallied around a tribute car for grade schoolers killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Texas Motor Speedway announced that the NRA would sponsor its April race. At the time, TMS president Eddie Gossage said he didn’t see any correlation between what happened at Sandy Hook and the NRA. Texas is also owned by SMI.
However, the sponsorship put NASCAR squarely into the gun control debate that was happening at the time, much like it is currently. Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy (D), even wrote a letter asking for the NRA 500 to have a different sponsor.
NASCAR said then that Texas’ agreement with the NRA had been approved by the sport, though the sanctioning body would take a closer look at sponsor agreements going forward. That closer look obviously didn’t prevent the NRA from returning in a co-sponsor capacity at Bristol three years later. NASCAR officially declined comment to Yahoo Sports and referred to the track regarding the race sponsorship.
The announcement of the Bristol sponsorship in the fall of 2015 included a statement from Richard Childress Racing team owner Richard Childress, who is a high-ranking member of the NRA. The announcement highlighted the outdoor sports and conservation aspect of the sponsorship and noted that the NRA and NASCAR have large overlapping demographics.
“The iconic nature of The Night Race and the natural beauty of our region create the perfect opportunity to highlight conservation on a national stage,” Bristol general manager Jerry Caldwell said in a statement announcing the sponsorship. “Hunters and sporting enthusiasts attend NASCAR races in droves. We share the same customers and that makes this a well-suited partnership.”
The NRA has served as an associate sponsor for Childress’ race teams previously. The sport has separate approval processes for race and team sponsorships.”
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